Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 47

Thread: A wedding photographer's struggles

  1. #1

    Default A wedding photographer's struggles

    I thought I share the experience of a CSer who contacted me previously for opinion and discussion. He was an ex-client, I shot his wedding years back, he wasn't that into photography then yet. Anyway he was desperate and came close to consulting a lawyer. I was the natural person to turn to. His ok with me sharing as long as no one probes or know who he is. He told me not to pull punches as long as it's factual.

    Like many CSers, he has a well paid full time job in the engineering field, photo hobby turned part time pro due to interest. Some months ago he booked his first wedding job above $1000 and shot it. Good skills good gear. He has shot a few friend's weddings for free as the 'Uncle Bob' and also solo shot a few simple rom for budget prices. He like the job and felt he can do it to earn extra income and pay off the money he spent on gear.

    The client booked him 2 weeks before their wedding. For seasoned pros, last min bookings usually means a red flag. For him he grabbed the chance. They took his $1288 package which consist of 10 hours photography, express highlights and a 20 spread coffeetable album, those cheaper budget kind of photobook. The breakdown is $80 per hour = $800, express highlights $200, album $288. While the final number looks good for a newbie, it actually spells disaster.

    He ended up charging $1088 giving the express highlight free after the couple bargained, and he also ended up covering more than 11 hours instead of 10. He incurred about $60+ in taxi fare - from early morning, rushing home to do Express highlights, and then rushing to hotel evening reception and then midnight charges after everything.

    Also, he did not collect deposit nor payment, thinking of collecting only after delivery. Very bad move here.

    Couple although promised him that they will, they did NOT apply for Rips music licensing, he reminded them a week before wedding day, but was ignored, he called them the day before the wedding, and they said its done. But on wedding day, they don't have it, claimed miscommunication. He was unable to do much due to rush of the day. For general infoRips license will cost $4000 a year for the vendor, or $96.3 for thr couple per one time use. Most likely the couple want to save that $96.30. He went on to do the express highlights anyway becoz he donno what to do - risking a 5 to 6 figure lawsuit if caught, plus an ugly situation with the couple. All for free, sadly. Fortunately, went smooth. What if not?

    One month later he delivered the pictures - it took very long for a newbie, part time, to process a full day 11 hours of photos. He was editing daily for 2 hours every evening, except weekends. The couple was not happy because he promised and thought 1-2 weeks should be enough.

    Cd delivered. He thentried getting the couple to choose pictures for the album but the couple did not get back to him for nearly 2 months. They just dont want to talk about it. His payment hanging too.

    After 7weeks, they finally selected the pics. He gets to the album design work but realised they selected too many pictures, just cannot fit his 20 spreads nicely, they do not want to buy more spreads, yet do not want to reduce pics. He awkwardly fit in all pics they want which took him another week to do it plus time for couple to respond. After that the couple said the layout not nice, pictures too small, ask him to redo. He cannot stand it anymore. So he redo and put in 5 more spreads free for them - hoping to satisfy them. Which cost $35 in material cost, but he already invested huge amount of time corresponding, designing and redesigning. They happy. So he send to print. Delivered the album, reached home, received a call that they realized he missed one family picture - don't want to pay. Yes his fault coz he so mentally stretched that he genuinely made mistakes. He told me at this point he was mentally drained plus his wife was against him doing photography he cannot confide with her too. He was thinking if small claims courts can help him get his payment back and want to ask a lawyer on his rights. Of course not worth it.

    I told him he got two solutions, either collect $800 from the couple and keep the album for himself as sample. Or see if he can logically fit pictures in with another spread, and to negotiate with the album vendor if they can print and restitch the bind. Can - which cost him $7 material cost for another spread. Restitching - $30. He chose the second option- he want to get rid of that album coz he don't wanna see their faces anymore. Another 1 weeks plus to do this plus more running around,finally settled after Christmas period.

    Despite his desire to end this asap, I advised him to wait a few more days, nearer to Chinese New Year, to get more leverage and higher chance of settling the issue completely, as newly weds might need to show album during CNY. He took my suggestion and finally it's settled.

    All in all, how many extra cost he incurred and how many extra hours he put in, I lost count. Time lost with the wife and kid, was lost forever

  2. #2

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    He expects no referral from this couple. Even if there are any, the new client will be expecting the same great album deal plus demand for free express highlights too. Was it a bad client? Not a good one I say but can't say bad either. But certainty a lot of bad business decisions and poor pricing strategy. If the client behaved badly, he had some responsibility in allowing that. All in all, I can only say this is a typical case of client leading the photographer in a wild geese hunt. If you don't set ground rules for your business, the client pinches you on the nose and leads you around like a jest.

    Dissect the problem package:
    $80 a hour, $800 for 10hrs. Consider rather cheap rates for weddings, since for each hour of shoot he ended up putting 4 hours more into edits. He puts time and effort into edits and post work because his serious about doing this but also because of inexperience. More experienced and better photogs especially full timers will bring that ratio down without compromising quality.

    Express highlights - You might think its cost you nothing to do it. No. It cost you a lot of time, stress and rush. If you hire someone to do, it cost $300+ too and still stressful coz its out if your hands. It is a hard to do job, dont give this away for free, charge properly for it, $200 is like only half of the common affordable market rate, and never compromise if things put u in a legal risk - we are dealing with the intellectual property of musicians and there's already an agency set up to curb misuse of music. You have to contract properly to protect yourself. If you want to give away free things - make sure those things are easily accomplished ones and not at high cost to you.

    Album - his cost was $235 from a popular CS vendor, he charged the couple $288 and he thought he will profit $53. But actually he lost way more money, plus he lost the extra income he should deserve and more importantly he lost time. You have to charge for your time, becoz if your time is not engaged in album design, you can take on other jobs and earn more. Or you can spend time with your family instead of working. Album prices should be at least 3 times the material cost. One time is material cost. The two times is your design and corresponding fee, and the three times is your profit and safety net. Why? Because you have to factor in situations where you cannot fulfill the contract and have to hire a designer take over the layout work and client care for you, and in situations where you have to reprovide the album due to accidental loss, giving in to extreme nasty clients, etc. Then you won't get burn that bad.

    Also he did not factor in another $80 to $100 to cover transport cost and other misc cost.

    The package was designed from a consumer's point of view, afterall most people are consumer minded most of the time in their life, as opposed to business minded, which a big problem when your doing business. He was all the while thinking for the couple, putting himself in their shoes - except he donno their shoe size at all.

    He should had charged $700 for that album, not $288. Budget couples will balk at that price because they go to the same photobook vendors and see the material cost is $235 and they only want to pay you $50 to do the design work like a slave - but these couples are not the type you want to sell albums to. These couples will DIY so let them go do it. You really, really, really want to sell your services to couple who will pay your price and time for it.

    I know a $700 album and $350 express highlights will push your price to the $1800+ region and it's hard to charge these kind of package when you are new. (local context) Why not just simply don't offer albums yet till your ready? And express highlights, really this is hard and stressful becoz you are trying to tell a story in a rush, sorting thru hundreds of pics, producing a entertainment in few hours to be viewed by hundreds. You could delight hundreds of people, or you could disappoint. And it gets legally complex now.

    Lastly, for wedding clients, collect full payment in advance. It's common for people to be broke after the wedding.Every other vendor gets paid on or before the wedding.Don't be the only fool that gets paid after the wedding - way after.

    Hope this will helps other photographers in doing this very difficult job.I know its a really long post and talking too much probably already killed much of the discussion. Thus anymore thoughts and insights welcomed.

  3. #3
    Senior Member sinned79's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Singapore
    Posts
    10,849

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    its a good experience for him. and that way next time he will be more careful... guess sometimes we gotta fall before we learn. but this thread is good for everyone including myself who is thinking to do this FT someday or already plan to do FT soon.

  4. #4

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Quote Originally Posted by sinned79 View Post
    its a good experience for him. and that way next time he will be more careful... guess sometimes we gotta fall before we learn. but this thread is good for everyone including myself who is thinking to do this FT someday or already plan to do FT soon.
    I agree .
    At least he can finally have closure on the whole thing

  5. #5

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    thanks for sharing. this is indeed very eye opening!

  6. #6

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Lesson be learnt here ?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    It is a business when you shoot for payment. Learn how to do a business before you try. A (fill in the blanks) photography business is not about the photography or how to do photoshop - those are given that you can do these things, it is not about the fun of shooting (you want fun go shoot for yourself), you get it wrong instead of making money you lose both money and time; the stress is for free.

  7. #7

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Thanks for sharing. A very good lesson to learn.

    But maybe the experienced photographers would like to point out what he should have done correctly to prevent those things from happening. From what I read, I identify it's his lack of preparation and workflow issue. Many newbies are lured by the money they can get from weddings. Some of them can really shoot well, maybe better than some seasoned wedding photographers. But if you don't have a system in place, the money you earn is not worth the huge effort you put in.

    To digress a little, from the point of view of clients, I sometimes tell my friends don't spend a bomb on wedding photography, unless you really can afford it or put strong personal conviction that that's the thing you want. For a large number of couples, a few weeks/months before the wedding, they want to live in a fairytale land where everything has to be nice, from gown, banquet, decorations, and yes, photography.

    But after the wedding, the hard reality of paying off the tons of bills (including their housing loans) hit hard on them and some of them are left really dry. Tempers flare and I've heard quarrels do take place because of money issues. As far as photography is concerned, they may even default payment. And the truth is, most of the time, no one cares much what happened at the wedding after it's over and the photo album will be chucked in the storeroom. So some couples would not hesitate to even forego their pictures due to money issues!

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Singapore
    Posts
    3,786

    Default

    Thanks for sharing JasonB
    Equipment: D800|D700|11-16|28-75|105 Micro VR|50 F1.4G|85 F1.8G
    Through the Lens of Cowseye

  9. #9

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Hi

    I do not see any problems at all with the issue especially on the 11-hour thing.

    The assumption of a chinese wedding that starts at 7am, and ends at 1am, and dinner banquet from 7-11pm is 10 hours straight. However in reality, we arrive earlier and leave later, esp after 11pm. If he can't scale down his expectations and expects the "Wedding Photography" to pay him as a full-time job, then he's not cut out to do biz in the first place. He has to change his mindset.

    This photographer wanna-be must learn to step up to the level of professional and anticipate changing customer expectations.

    Sometimes I think you cannot charge by a per-hour basis unless you are talking about extra hours. Wedding photography is unlike driving a taxi where you charge by mileage or hour on a straight basis. You have to deliver both a service and end product

    For coffeetable books I'm quite puzzled as to why he needs to do layout himself. Even for budget ones, I send my couple to my designers straight and once done, printing is done in JB and delivered to the couple. My designer only charge me less than $100.

    For songs, he should have explored other options instead. If the couple wanted to use a copyrighted song, tell them to pay and failure to do so would meant no highlights.

    In wedding photo, as with other business, you win some and lose some. Adjust prices if you need to and put focus instead on quality. This is not the first, nor last customer. Some customers you earn more, while others you earn less. This cannot be changed and is the same for all industries. I do not see a problem.

    For a newbie I feel he must be proficient in at least the basics first before he sells his service. It includes proficiency and confidence in shooting, designing highlights and post processing. Has anyone gone through his quality of works?

  10. #10
    Member Turboredbean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tampines, Singapore
    Posts
    221

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    I agree on what some said here... Those who wanted to get into any business whether its food, fashion, photography, automobile repair shop, etc. there will be difficult customers and experiences but it doesnt mean you quit before you start. Learn to ride the wave, study the in's and out's, know your right's and your customers. "Do your homework" and "study well".
    Canon 550D /18-135/50 1.8/75-300 USM III/10-22/70-200 f2.8L IS II/

  11. #11
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Upper Bukit Timah
    Posts
    11,650

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    He was being squeezed because there was probably too many contractual loose ends left untied.

    For me, I make it a point to separate the various scope of works. One quotation for photography works and another for publication. If I can, I don't even include printing in my quotes. I can prepare the book and liaise with the printer(for a fee) but my clients pay them separately. Of course, this has to be put in writing and communicated with the client up front.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Upper Bukit Timah
    Posts
    11,650

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    and when someone asks for a discount with the promise of more work to come in future...... DON'T TAKE IT!!! It will only mean that you are doing more work and incurring more losses.

  13. #13

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Well, if he takes this event and modify his workflow and pricing, then it will do him good.

    In life, no matter how experience you are, you will make some mistakes along the way and you hope it's not so much of a mistake which cause you a lot.

    It is not what happen that define the person, it is what they choose to do after....

    It is easier to learn from others mistake than your own.

    I am glad that the photographer has the balls to get things done, at least preserve his integrity.

    If one is too worried about making mistake and stay within comfort zone, nothing will be achieved and this is much worst then making a mistake.

    I make a lt of mistake in the last 4 years of running my business here in Singapore, but it is through learning through it, I get to where I am.

    So my advise for young photographers is... Learn your craft, build your vision, plan ahead and learn from your mistake and keep going.

    Regards,

    Hart

  14. #14

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Thanks for sharing JasonB.

    To rush out the morning highlights within a few hours is damn stressful.

    Can anyone share more on Rips music licence? Does this mean all songs in montage must be paid? Because I have asked a few wedding couples in the past - they told me they didnt pay anything - either no one got caught or the photographer absorbed the cost?

  15. #15
    Senior Member sinned79's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Singapore
    Posts
    10,849

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Quote Originally Posted by ninja1943 View Post
    Thanks for sharing JasonB.

    To rush out the morning highlights within a few hours is damn stressful.

    Can anyone share more on Rips music licence? Does this mean all songs in montage must be paid? Because I have asked a few wedding couples in the past - they told me they didnt pay anything - either no one got caught or the photographer absorbed the cost?
    some hotels may already have some form of annual licensing I believe

    here's some helpful links for you to do further research:
    COMPASS - Permit

    you may also wish to buy license from here:
    Triple Scoop Music : Award-winning music licensing for photographers, videographers and creative professionals!

  16. #16

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Great info here. Thanks for sharing JasonB & everyone.

  17. #17

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    Hi there,

    Word of advice, I've been doing weddings since 1990. Done both DIY and apprenticed. Best way to learn is apprenticeship. It's a lot of hardship but you will skip all the bitter lessons from DIY.

    If you want to apprentice, email or call (best) the photographer who's work most inspires you and offer to work for free. Within 3-6 months you will learn his workflow and within 6-12 months you will learn why his business is making money and he's shooting the style/stuff he wants.

    Best
    Wesley
    Last edited by wesley; 16th February 2012 at 06:34 PM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    To all those who are starting out or are considering to start...think abt the following.

    1) Charging $800 a day indeed give u $1600 if you get 2 jobs a month. This can very well pay for 1 month's HDB lease or a simple car. But It is not just a 2 days job but at least 2 weeks. Life goes down the drain when u have the money.

    2) What are the chances you'll get a nice wedding or portfolio worthy couple to photograph at $800 price tag. The chance of getting into a problematic one is so much more especially last min couples.

    3) You are worth as much as how you let yourself to be. No one can tell you that you are cheap unless you let yourself be cheap. I'm sure there are photographers all over the world shooting average quality photographs and yet charging a premium and there are still people willing to pay for such photographs. If you are not even proud of yourself how do u think your clients will think of u.


    These above are my personal experience from day 1 when I started apprenticing. My first year as wedding photographer 4 years ago, my first package $2,500 with 300X4R print + Slot Album and eventually I did abt 50 weddings that year. My rates subsequently increased to 2,800 and 3200 within very same year which i upgraded to a 20page photobook.

  19. #19

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    For me when I got married, my photographer also did not demand deposit, he collect only after deliver the album to me. I'm probably an easy client, thats why I ask him to just help me do a simple highlight without music since I am aware of the licensing issue and I gave him the liberty to design the photos arrangement for me. End of the day, all 3 of us, my photographer, my wife and myself is happy about it.

    Having said that, I think a photographer should put into written agreement what will be promised to the client, so that
    1) if they suddenly require the photographer to stay extra hour, it will be chargeable
    2) Any extra request oh the album should also be chargeable.
    3) CDs and Album will only be delivered upon full payment
    4) Deposit should be collected prior to the actual day.
    5) A disclaimer that client cannot hold the photographer responsible if that is not their standard, I think "Their standards" are subjective also.

    Well, thats how I feel abt that.

  20. #20

    Default Re: A wedding photographer's struggles

    sinned79 - the last time I looked, the hotel's license is for their public areas, that means the ball room when the dinner is going on may be considered a private area. Then there is that issue of a license for linking music to a slide show or a video; it is different from the one the hotel got which is just to play music on a PA system. No hotel is willing to time mark your slide show with their music unlike the march in of the couple. It is a messy right held by many parties standing in line to stiff to photographers. Stick with royalty free it is less painful.

    Quote Originally Posted by sinned79 View Post
    some hotels may already have some form of annual licensing I believe

    here's some helpful links for you to do further research:
    COMPASS - Permit

    you may also wish to buy license from here:
    Triple Scoop Music : Award-winning music licensing for photographers, videographers and creative professionals!

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •